[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.
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This article examines the rise of gatekeeper politics within the ANC, drawing on an analysis of ANC discussion documents, key informant interviews with senior party officials, and interviews and observations from the ANC’s centenary policy conference. On the basis of this material, I identify the symptoms and consequences of gatekeeper politics, including the growth of patronage networks, crony capitalism, and bitter factional struggles within the party. Rather than resembling some uniquely “African” form of political aberration and breakdown, gatekeeper politics should be viewed within a broader spectrum of patronage politics evident elsewhere in the world, because it is intrinsically bound up with the development of capitalism. Political leaders who occupy positions of authority in the party or public service act as gatekeepers by regulating access to the resources and opportunities that they control. A volatile politics of inclusion and exclusion emerges and provokes bitter factional struggles within the ANC as rival elites compete for power. The rise of gatekeeper politics undermines both the organizational integrity of the ANC and its capacity to deliver on its electoral mandate. It can also depoliticize social injustice in post-apartheid South Africa by co-opting popular struggles over access to resources that might otherwise challenge the political status quo.BACK TO TOP